Peter Dutton tells Anthony Albanese it’s “time to stop doing stunts and start answering the questions” on Indigenous voice of Parliament
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to provide more details on how the indigenous vote would work in Parliament ahead of the forthcoming referendum.
Mr Dutton on Tuesday, following his press conference with American basketball great Shaquille O’Neal over the weekend, urged Mr Albanese to “stop the stunts and answer the questions” to further constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.
O’Neal spoke briefly with Mr Albanese and Indigenous Australian Minister Linda Burney on Saturday as part of the Government’s push to mobilize support for the vote in Parliament, but the sports star did not answer questions from reporters.
Mr Dutton described the trio’s media appearance – which was heavily criticized by Indigenous politicians – as a “bizarre event”.
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“To be honest I was taken aback and I really think it was a slap in the face to the indigenous leaders who tried to get in touch with Anthony Albanese,” the opposition leader said.
“I felt it was quite a remarkable and bizarre event and that Anthony Albanese would not listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians expressing concern at the lack of detail.
“Don’t forget that Mr Albanese started this journey by saying you could vote on this referendum on Saturday and he would announce the details on Monday. Now that was clearly untenable, he reversed that.”
Mr Dutton has previously said he is ready to support Parliament’s vote but said he needed more details on the proposed body, which would advise the government on issues affecting First Nations people.
“What I worry about is that at a time when we want to take reconciliation and support for people in indigenous communities very seriously, you have a government that is on the run,” he said.
“And it is clear that at the moment the government has not prepared or cannot answer even the most basic details.
“So a sophisticated advertising campaign will not be a substitute for answering legitimate questions that Australians, including Indigenous Australians, have about voice.
“I honestly think it’s time to stop the stunts and answer the questions and that’s what the public deserves.”
Mr Albanese urged people on Tuesday to “relax” after the press conference backlash, saying it got people talking about the upcoming referendum.
“He approached me and I think people should basically relax a bit,” the Prime Minister told 2SM.
“The fact of the matter is Shaq’s appearance means people are talking about it.
“Shaq is addressing a whole range of people, many of whom would have heard of the Voice of Parliament for the first time, and that’s a good thing.
“I make no apologies for speaking to anyone, anywhere, anytime about these issues, and anything we can do to raise the profile of this issue is a good thing.”
The Indigenous country’s Liberal Party senator, a vocal critic of the Voice to Parliament, called the move to use O’Neal to foment the referendum a “criminal PR stunt” to appeal to younger Australians.
“I’m still flinching, I can’t get rid of that feeling of flinching,” Senator Price told Sky News Australia presenter Rita Panahi on Monday.
“It’s really quite offensive, like it’s not just for Indigenous Australians, it’s for all Australians, because we’re talking about issues here that are really, really important issues.”
Senator Price said the Prime Minister was “ignoring” Indigenous Australians because he refused to accept their invitation to visit Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, despite finding time to meet with O’Neal.
“There are many marginalized Indigenous Australians in this country who are suffering right now and this government is ignoring that suffering, there are Indigenous voices that have been calling out,” she said.
“I asked the Prime Minister to come to the Northern Territory to open his eyes to the reality of the situation on the ground and he said no, he will not come to the Northern Territory.
“But he’s quite happy to enlist the support of this foreigner, let’s be honest he’s a foreigner, yes he may have dark skin but that doesn’t make him an expert on anything indigenous in this country, it does certainly not make him a constitutional expert.”
Indigenous Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe on Monday slammed Mr Albanese for his media appearances with O’Neal, saying the referendum had “nothing” to do with the basketball legend.
“We have bigger issues in this country that we want Shaq to understand and know about, rather than thinking that talking to the Labor Party benefits him to win fans or votes, it’s an insult,” said Senator Thorpe.
“It’s an insult to Blackfellas in this country, let alone the rest of the country, he comes in and comments on our politics in our own country that he knows nothing about.”
The Voice to Parliament is a key element of the 2017 Uluru Declaration from the Heart, calling for an elected Indigenous advisory body to the federal parliament.
Labor put the issue at the center of its agenda when Mr Albanese said there would be a referendum in his first term on the night of his election victory.
Mr Albanese announced late last month that Australians would be asked for a “simple and clear” yes or no in the Parliament’s vote referendum.
“Do you support an amendment to the Constitution that introduces an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice?” is about the suggested question.